St. Marys Journal Argus
Face-to-face registration at St. Marys Memorial Hospital’s Emergency department have been discontinued between the hours of 8-11 p.m. and 7-8 a.m., replaced by a conversation by telephone with a patient registration clerk at Clinton Public Hospital.
“This is brand new for St. Marys Memorial. It has only been in effect since Jan. 5,” explained Mary Cardinal, VP for Quality and Clinical Services for the Huron-Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA), in an interview with the Journal Argus last week. Cardinal added that the same change was initiated at Seaforth Hospital on Jan. 5.
Previously, a registration clerk was on site in St. Marys until 11 p.m. on weekdays, and until 8 p.m. on weekends, with the Emergency nurses then taking over registration duties until 7 a.m. They nurses don’t do a full registration, however; instead, they conduct what Cardinal describes as a “short registration” that requires follow-up by the clerk in the morning to fill out all required information.
Now, the hours for the on-site registration clerk have been scaled back to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Rather than ask the Emergency nurses to increase the hours during which they must take on the additional “short registration” duties, patients are instead handed a telephone and connected directly to the Clinton desk.
“They’re asked the questions, just as it would be in a face-to-face meeting,” Cardinal explained.
The change was made, Cardinal explained, after more than two years of monitoring patient flow in St. Marys and Seaforth. In St. Marys she said, the Emergency department typically cared for between 4-8 patients per night.
And a clerk is available at the Clinton site for longer periods due to recent re-alignment of services throughout the HPHA. In particular, all cataract surgeries for the Alliance’s four sites are now performed in Clinton, necessitating an earlier opening and later closing for the registration desk, compared to St. Marys or Seaforth.
A Journal Argus reader, who informed the newspaper about the changes after visiting the Emergency department on a recent evening, said they were taken by surprise. They noted that, when handed the phone to connect with the Clinton registration desk, they were put on hold while the clerk dealt with a patient ahead of them in the line at an entirely different location.
Cardinal explained, however, that “those hours — from 8-11 p.m., and from 7-8 a.m. — were chosen intentionally, because there’s typically a lower volume of patients needing to be registered at that time.” She said there are no plans to expand the hours when incoming patients would be required to connect by phone to Clinton, because “through the day, there’s a heavier volume.”
“With the evening hours, we saw it as an opportunity to have things done in a more efficient way, yet not affect the patient experience.”
There were no lay-offs at St. Marys Memorial as a result of the change, although Cardinal conceded that “across the part-time (employee) pool, there were some decreases in hours.”